Failure In Religion: 44% Of Americans Cant Be Wrong

Religion to some should be a check on the society producing a morally upbuilding effect on its adherents. To others it should satisfy their inborn desire for a spiritual life. For yet it is business as usual - tell the people what they want to here, to make them stick and donate more money to the church.

In view of the forgoing it is not suprising that the Washington Post Reports that "Forty-four percent of Americans have either switched their religious affiliation since childhood or dropped out of any formal religious group, according to the largest recent survey on American religious identification.

The survey, released Monday by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, found that Americans' faith identity fluctuates during their lives, with vast numbers moving away from the faith tradition of their childhood to embrace other religious traditions -- or no faith at all. The survey interviewed 35,000 people.
Among other findings, the survey indicated that members of Protestant denominations now make up only a slight majority -- 51.3 percent -- of the adult population.
The 44 percent figure includes people who switch affiliations within one of the major faith traditions, such as a Protestant who goes from Baptist to Methodist. Counting only people who switch traditions altogether -- say, from Catholic to Orthodox, or Protestant to Muslim -- the number drops to 28 percent.
"Constant movement characterizes the American religious marketplace, as every major religious group is simultaneously gaining and losing adherents," the U.S. Religious Landscape Survey said.
The survey also concluded that 16 percent of American adults are not affiliated with any faith today. About 4 percent describe themselves as atheist or agnostic. Young adults ages 18 to 29 are much more likely than people 70 and older to say they are unaffiliated with any particular religion, Pew found".

Has religion not failed?

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The Sexually Active But Sexually Ignorant Youths Of Indian Cities

While love was on top of the minds of many a young Mumbaikar on Valentine's Day on Thursday, a recent study showed that young people in urban Maharashtra are groping in the dark when it comes to issues relating to sex and reproductive health. City doctors and researchers added that they worry about the risky sexual practices by this age group.

Their concerns are borne out by the study, which showed disturbing trends of ignorance - only 35.3% of single girls in cities knew that they could get pregnant in their first sexual encounter. A mere 35.1% of unmarried boys consistently used condoms with pre-marital partners.

"When it comes to sexual behaviour, we found that youngsters had very superficial knowledge, which makes them indulge in risky sexual behaviour," said Usha Ram of the International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS), an autonomous institute under the Union ministry of health and family welfare. IIPS interviewed 8,500 married and unmarried youths. The married ones were aged 15 to 29 and unmarried ones 15 to 24. The study was completed late last year. While 87.8% of single girls had heard of HIV/AIDS, only 40.4% could identify two ways of preventing it and knew healthy-looking persons could transmit it.

Not surprisingly, youngsters knocking at the doors of city sexual health clinics are full of misconceptions. "It isn't unusual to see teens walking in and asking for a spray or medicated cigarettes to improve their sexual performance," said Dr Sanjay Chauhan of the National Institute for Research in Reproductive Health, which runs two centres, called Jagruti, in Parel for adolescents below 24. The ignorance is worrying given that this is the most sexually active group. At the Jagruti centres, nearly 1% of 1,300 youngsters over the past two years asked for pregnancy confirmation.

Myths - such as masturbation can lead to problems like impotence or tuberculosis - are reinforced as teens often turn to 'ignorant' friends for sexual advice, pointed out professor of sexual medicine Prakash Kothari, who runs a clinic at Opera House. "We find that parents and even teachers are often hesitant about discussing sex and sexuality openly," said Kothari. This was corroborated in the IIPS study, which found that only 0.2% of unmarried boys in the state had ever discussed sexual and reproductive matters with their parents.

"We are able to cater to barely 30% of youngsters in Parel. One of the challenges we face is that youngsters who come in for condoms often run away after getting them. They aren't interested in the counselling or education," said Chauhan. "The only way to bust this darkness is to have sex education," said Kothari, who feels addressing behavioural changes would help promote love and its expression.

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Investigating Televangelist Finances For Violating Non-Profit Tax Laws?

Kent Garber
Rolls-Royces, Dresden vases, vacation homes, jewelry, private jets, a $11,219 clock—the inventory is either admirable or suspicious, depending on your point of view. To adherents of the so-called Prosperity Gospel, the trappings of their ministers are evidence of God's blessings for a life well lived. But to Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, they may be signs of excess—the kind of unreasonable compensation that he says could violate federal tax law.

Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, has investigated many scandals, including excessive spending by officials at the Smithsonian Institution. Now, he is taking on the matter of church-state boundaries with his probe of six well-known televangelists who preach that God wants his followers to be rich both spiritually and materially. The philosophy applies not only to the worshipers but to the preachers as well.

So what happens when the preacher earns rock-star status and a paycheck to match? Federal tax law prohibits religious leaders, as the heads of tax-exempt nonprofit institutions, from earning "unreasonable compensation." It also prohibits tax-exempt organizations from providing "substantial benefit" to individuals.

Airplanes. With these provisions in mind, Grassley sent requests to six televangelists last fall seeking information about such things as credit card spending, offshore accounts, and airplane and car purchases. To date, only one ministry has responded to Grassley's satisfaction. So he is redoubling his efforts. Last week, the senator was planning to send a second request for information, along with further justification for his probe. "It is the same thing I have been trying to accomplish with all of my investigations," said Grassley, "and that is to make sure that tax laws are complied with." He said he wanted to make sure that churchgoers were not being "played for suckers."

Grassley's interest in the televangelists stems from several published reports of loose spending by church leaders. In 2003, for instance, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch exposed the opulent lifestyle of Joyce Meyer, a St. Louis-based televangelist whose church, Joyce Meyer Ministries, made an estimated $95 million that year. In his letter to Meyer and her husband, David, he noted reports of the couple accepting "personal monetary gifts and jewelry" from donors. To the Revs. Creflo and Taffi Dollar of World Changers Church International in College Park, Ga., Grassley cited reports that they had received two Rolls-Royces from the church. In both cases, he asked the ministers to show whether they had declared the gifts to the IRS.

The Meyers, who have said they are committed to "transparency," did provide much of the information that was requested, according to one of Grassley's aides. But Creflo Dollar, along with Georgia preacher Eddie Long, has declined to provide Grassley with documents. The other ministries—Kenneth Copeland Ministries of Newark, Texas; Without Walls International Church of Tampa; and Benny Hinn Ministries of Grapevine, Texas—have provided answers Grassley found insufficient. A Copeland spokesperson said the ministry supplied Grassley with 291 pages of exhibits but cited privacy concerns about releasing more documents. The Dollars and Joyce Meyer declined to comment; representatives of the other ministries did not return phone calls.

Discrimination? The objection from the churches is twofold: that the IRS, not Congress, is the proper body to investigate tax matters related to religious groups, and that the focus on members of the Prosperity movement is discriminatory and threatens their First Amendment rights. In a recent editorial, Creflo Dollar's attorney, Marcus Owens, said Grassley had singled out the churches because of his "often-expressed distaste for, or disagreement with, these churches' theology."

Grassley dismisses both arguments, "This has nothing to do with church doctrine," he said in a statement. "This has everything to do with [whether] the tax exemption of an organization is being used according to the law; and is the money that's donated...being used for legitimate, nonprofit purposes?" Grassley also noted that only Congress can change laws.

Still, the idea of the government investigating churches is a sensitive one. The last substantial federal probe of church finances dates to the 1980s, when an IRS investigation led to the indictment of Jim Bakker, the former host of the PTL Club, on fraud charges. The House later considered reforming the tax laws but made no changes and did not investigate the churches themselves. "The IRS has really not gotten involved too much in this, much less Congress," says Gary Snyder, managing director of Nonprofit Imperative. Government oversight of church finances is lax, and penalties for tax violations are rarely dispensed.

One change Grassley could seek, says Pablo Eisenberg, a nonprofit expert at the Georgetown Public Policy Institute, would be to impose limits on how much leaders of nonprofit organizations can earn. Congress could also try to demand stricter boundaries between preachers and boards of trustees.

Owens has challenged Grassley to subpoena the desired information. So far Grassley has resisted taking that route, but he says he has no plans to back down. "I think there is some gamble for people who are stonewalling," he said. "Every organization I have requested information from, I have gotten voluntarily."

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Japanese Authority's Clean up Hits Sexual Cabaret Club

Ryann Connell
One of the most daring adult clubs in Osaka's Minami entertainment district has been shut down in what many say is the first strike in a campaign to clean up the area, according to Shukan Jitsuwa.

Six of the hostesses and a male customer of the "sexual cabaret club" Impulse were arrested last month for indecent exposure after the workers allegedly labored while entirely nude and the patron exposed his genitals.

Those alleged acts aren't the only indecency that appears to have gone on at Impulse.

"As soon as you enter the club, a hostess will give you a hot towel that she has already used to swipe her private parts. You can start fondling the hostesses' breasts as soon as you sit down, but that's nothing. You immediately get a drink, but it's a hostess's urine served on the rocks. They also serve tidbits sprinkled with cuttings of the workers' pubic hair," the employee of an adult entertainment introduction service tells Shukan Jitsuwa. "They also had a service where the ice served in drinks is first inserted into the hostess's private parts. They just kept on getting wilder and wilder and I think they went too far in the end."

Impulse strictly forbid the media from covering it, but word of the club's existence spread quickly and it was among the most popular establishments in Minami. Some say the arrests at Impulse signal the start of a clean-up of the entertainment district.

"That place was warned plenty of times in the past for going too far," a writer on the sex industry says. "I knew there'd eventually be arrests there some day."

Others defend Impulse, though.

"Sure, it stretched the limits, but it never really went beyond them. It didn't provide any sexual services that resulted in ejaculation and if there was any nudity going on, it was never anything more than a quick flash," the operator of a call girl service says. "Even its most raunchy stuff wasn't that serious. I think the arrests have been made to send a message to others."

Reporters covering the Osaka Prefectural Police beat certainly think so.

"Some people are saying the tough line cops are taking on adult businesses in Minami will only go on until the end of this year. But I think they're wrong. I think this crackdown is going to keep on going for ages," a hack covering the Osaka police beat tells Shukan Jitsuwa. "And the reason why I feel that is the cops working on Minami now are the same ones who carried out the massive clean-up a couple of years ago of the Kabukicho district in Tokyo."

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Chinese Authorities Shut Down 44,000 Porn Sites In 2007

China shut down 44,000 Web sites and homepages and arrested 868 people last year in a campaign against Internet porn which will continue until the end of this year's Beijing Olympics.

China launched a crackdown on online pornography and "unhealthy" Web content after Chinese President Hu Jintao said the country's sprawling Internet posed a threat to social stability.

Rights groups have said the campaign has been used as a thinly veiled pretext to crack down on dissent and round up online dissidents ahead of the Olympics.

Authorities had also investigated 524 criminal cases involving online porn and "penalized" another 1,911 people.

Some 440,000 "pornographic messages" had also been deleted, the agency said.

China has attempted to stifle online criticism of the ruling Communist Party and discussion related to sensitive topics such as Tibet and Taiwan by ordering Web sites to register with authorities.

Authorities registered 199,000 Web sites last year, but refused 14,000 for failing to get official registration or to apply for official approval.

China employs tens of thousands of human Internet censors and a vast network of filters to control online information.

The anti-pornography campaign would continue until September, "after the Beijing Olympic Games end".

China last month said it would crack down on video-sharing Web sites, and allow only state-controlled sites to post video content online in new restrictions effective from January 31.

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Japan's Raunchiest Entertainment Industry Staggering?

Japan's biggest, brashest, raunchiest entertainment district -- suffered a slow, boring entrance to 2008, with one notable exception: love hotels, Shukan Shincho says.

"It's really sad," a Kabukicho restaurant employee tells Shukan Shincho. "There wasn't a soul around on New Year's Day. About the only places in Kabukicho that attracted anyone over the New Year holidays were game centers and pachinko parlors."

Rumors have recently sprung up that Japan's once-spurting "ejaculation industry" is well and truly on the wane.

"Ever since (Shintaro) Ishihara became governor of Tokyo, policing of Kabukicho has become really tight. The number of storefront sex business there has dropped dramatically and now there are only loads of stores selling adult DVDs or booths offering advice on sex services in their place," the restaurant worker says. "The whole atmosphere of the district has changed and virtually no-one comes here for sex anymore."

Once a Kabukicho staple, soapland brothels in particular are feeling washed up.

"A whole series of famous ramen noodle restaurants have opened up in one alley near all the soaplands," a Kabukicho insider tells the weekly. "People line up to get into the restaurants, which makes it a bit too embarrassing for guys to have to walk past them all to go into the brothels."

Still, not every business in Kabukicho is hurting. In fact, while not as many people may be paying for Kabukicho's carnal pleasures, that doesn't mean they're not getting them in the district.

"(Love hotels) have gone from being just places where you'd go for sex into becoming havens of pleasure. Competition among the hotels is absolutely fierce and consumers get the benefit. That's not just in things like reasonable rates and longer sessions, but services like room service menus with over 100 items and orders accepted 24 hours a day, surround-sound audio systems in the rooms, online karaoke sets and then free provision of toiletries and other items for stays like pajamas. There are even some love hotels with meals prepared by famous chefs," the Kabukicho insider tells Shukan Shincho.

"Some Kabukicho love hotels have started putting up sandwich boards in front of their establishments to advertise the services they're providing. Some couples even spent the entire New Year period in Kabukicho love hotels."

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Japanese Authorities Okays The Sexual Abuse Of 18-20 Year Olds

Ryann Connell
Not long after she had finished elementary school, the father of a now 18-year-old woman identifies only as Miss A began "visiting" her bedroom and sexually abusing her.

His unwanted ministrations continued for years. She graduated high school in the spring of last year but failed to gain entrance into a university, so stayed at home to study.

"He stopped coming in for a while, but then started all over again," Miss A tells Yomiuri Weekly journalist and confidante Miho Nagata.

When the teen's mother was due to go away for a weekend, she was terrified that her father would be able to do as he liked with her, so Nagata stepped in to try and help. But after the journalist dragged the girl away from her incestuous father's clutches, she was horrified to discover Japan's support system places the young woman in limbo -- simply because she's aged 18.

Japanese are legally minors until turning 20, until which time their parents have the legal right and obligation to supervise and educate them. However, laws aimed at protecting children from abusive parents only apply to those under 18. Despite the years of her father's abuse, the Tokyo Child Consultation Center refused to help her.

"If she's 18, her case can't be picked up by one of our centers," the Yomiuri Weekly quotes a spokesman saying.

Other public authorities were equally unhelpful.

"If she really was being abused, why did she wait until she was 18 until telling someone?" the weekly quotes the ever-helpful police from the country area where Miss A grew up as saying.

Public health authorities in the same city expressed similar doubts about her situation. Women's shelter officials in Tokyo were equally unresponsive, saying they generally dealt only with female victims of physical rather than sexual violence.

"It would be the first time we've ever had to deal with a case where a woman was being sexually abused by a member of her family," the weekly quotes a shelter employee saying.

Miss A's age even worked against her when it came to seeking mental health care for the anguish she had suffered.

"If she's under 20, we can't admit her to the hospital without her parents' permission," a spokesman for a mental health hospital says.

Parental permission was highly unlikely to be forthcoming considering the circumstances surrounding Miss A's case, and the fact that her mother and father were constantly ringing or mailing her and demanding she return home. The police also came after her when her parents filed a missing person's report and demanded she be returned to their side.

Eventually, Miss A sought refuge in a place the Japanese call a Woman's Dormitory. These places were initially set up in the 1950s to house and rehabilitate prostitutes after Japan outlawed prostitution. Many of the current residents are also the original inhabitants, and teenage Miss A struggled to live in the communal dorms with the old women.

After most authorities told her they were unable to deal with her case, one welfare worker helpfully suggested to Miss A that she could always go and live in an Internet caf?, the current favorite refuge of many financially strapped Japanese. Police, however, advised the teen to return to the home of the parents who had prompted her to seek sanctuary in the first place.

In the end, Miss A -- shocking those who had tried to help her -- did, in fact, go back to her home. Experts on abuse say it's a common pattern among victims. They also say it's common for many sexually abused children to stay silent about their ordeal until turning 18 and sliding into limbo in Japan.

"We often hear of cases where the victim has actually waited until turning 18 before they tell anyone what has been happening to them," Yuko Taniga, head of Kirara -- an NPO that helps sex abuse victims -- tells Yomiuri Weekly. "Unlike neglect or physical violence, it's very hard for incest victims to tell others about the abuse they've been subjected to. For many victims, incest starts before they know what sex is about, and they can think the same thing happens in every family. There are some incest victims who so enjoy the pleasure of sex that they can't turn it down, even if a relative is forcing it on them. The shame of gaining sexual pleasure makes it all the harder to talk about. There are more than a few minors over 18 who suffer in this way because the Child Welfare Law can't protect them."

Changes to the law in 2004 do allow abused children over 18 but under 20 to apply to a family court to have their parents' guardianship over them declared void. However, it's a step few youngsters are willing to take.

"Even if they are abusive, for children parents are still parents," Kirara's Taniga says. "There are hardly any children who would sue to have their parent's guardianship over them removed."

That leaves few options for youngsters like Miss A who are being abused but are too old to seek refuge through child protection services and too young to be legally treated as adults."Abuse victims with nowhere to go are often forced into sex businesses if they're female, or homelessness if they're male, Tetsuro Tsuzaki, a professor at Hanazono University in Kyoto tells Yomiuri Weekly. "Laws should at least be changed so that children's homes can help people until they turn 20."

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